Summoning the Spirits

Susan Starr Sered

in Priestess, Mother, Sacred Sister

Published in print December 1996 | ISBN: 9780195104677
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199853267 | DOI:
Summoning the Spirits

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Possession trance is a pivotal component in the majority of women's religions. In nine out of the twelve women's religions cited in this book, possession trance occurs either frequently or occasionally in the context of ritual. Both male-dominated and female-dominated religions utilize techniques of dancing, swaying, spinning, drumming, meditation, and singing to induce trance. Erika Bourguignon, however, comments on one interesting gender difference. Trance—an altered state of consciousness induced by a number of well-recognized techniques and not involving possession—is reported more often for men. Possession—the belief that supernatural beings can enter human beings, that humans can temporarily become gods, spirits, demons, or ancestors—is reported more often for women. Put differently, what is more common among women is not a dissociative state known as trance, but a cultural interpretation known as spirit possession. Spirit possession, if it occurs, is rare during the rituals. In the Feminist Spirituality Movement, techniques such as meditation, dance, and chanting are used to induce altered states of consciousness, and rituals that dramatize the goddess-nature of mortal women are common.

Keywords: trance; possession; women; religions; spirit possession; altered states of consciousness; rituals; meditation; spirits; dance

Chapter.  6644 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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